Far Niente Wine Tour and Red Hen Cantina Lunch
Run, July 27, 2013
by Mike Hinton, Redwood Region Vice-President
I can well imagine the grumblings emanating from Redwood Region members
on July 27th: "We have to be up in WINDSOR?
At 8:00 A.M.? This had better be worth it!"
Such questions are understandable from those members who have never
attended an event at Far Niente Winery, but the veterans knew better.
On an overcast morning, more typically seen in June, a large crowd
gathered in preparation for the drive into the Napa Valley to visit Far
Niente Winery. I counted at least 37 Porsches, which is
one of the largest gatherings I've been involved in over the past 4
years. One of our Past Presidents, Kurt Fischer, had
mapped out a 50+ mile run that would take us on Sonoma County back
roads, past the famed Chalk Hill Winery, and then into the pastoral
setting of Knights Valley. The early morning traffic was
light, so it was easy to keep the two groups of cars together.
After winding through the hills at the southern end of Knights
Valley, the groups emerged into bright sunshine as they crossed into the
A pleasant cruise down the scenic Silverado Trail, followed by a quick
dash across the heart of the Napa Valley, led us to our destination:
the famed Far Niente Winery. The first group of
cars arrived, spreading out into the parking lot and along the curving
drives leading to the winery. Our gracious host, Bruce
Mooers, asked if all of the group had arrived. I had to
inform him that the flood of Porsches only represented half of the
group. I guess the event was more popular than
After the second group's arrival, everyone gathered at the end of the
parking lot to listen to a short history of the winery.
Bruce told us that the winery had been originally commissioned back in
1885, and was designed by the famed architect Hamden McIntyre, who also
oversaw the construction of Christian Brothers Winery (now the Culinary
Institute of America), and the Gustav Niebaum Winery (now Inglenook,
owned by Francis Ford Coppola). The winery operated until
the time of Prohibition (1919), then fell into disrepair.
In 1979, the late Gil Nickel (a car and motorcycle enthusiast
extraordinaire) purchased the property and restored it.
The first wines were made at the property in 1982. A truly
After our history lesson, we moved inside the top floor of the winery to
taste the 2011 Chardonnay. In keeping with the
spectacular restoration of the building's exterior, the third floor had
been rebuilt with the utmost care. For me, the most
impressive feature was a spiral staircase constructed from oak.
The railings were a work of art. A patio offered a
magnificent view of the Napa Valley, and the mountains beyond.
From there, our group ventured down a level to the barrel storage area.
Typical of wine cellars, it was quite chilly! Bruce
gave us a brief overview of Far Niente's winemaking and grape growing
processes, and was able to field all of the questions posed by the
group. An extra treat was the opportunity to taste the
2012 Chardonnay right out of the barrel! Although I'm not
much of a Chardonnay drinker myself, I was greatly impressed by both
offerings. I'll have to get some to serve with
Our final stop of the tour was into the garage, where some of Gil's
classic cars and bikes reside. The three bikes were
BMWs, and the cars were an eclectic mix, from practical (a London Cab)
to the exotic (a 365 GTB4 Ferrari). While ogling the
cars and socializing, we were able to taste the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon,
and snack on many tasty varieties of cheese.
Ultimately, we also had the opportunity to sample Dolce, which is a
delectable dessert wine. All too soon, however, it
was time to regroup, and set out for our lunch destination, the Red Hen
Cantina in Napa. Our group filled the parking lot, and
took over most of the outdoor patio. By now, the weather
was magnificent and the food and company was great as well.
A truly successful event!
On behalf of the Club, I'd like to thank Kurt Fischer for organizing the
tour, and wanted to extend our deep gratitude to Bruce Mooers and his
hard-working staff for taking time to host our group. For
those who were unable to attend, my condolences. Kurt has
promised to include Far Niente, or their sister winery Nickel & Nickel,
on a future tour. Trust me, you won't want to miss it!
(All photos by the Editor unless otherwise noted)
Kurt Fischer Introducing the Tour
Cars Lined Up and Ready to Go
Arriving at Far Niente
The Far Niente Winery
Mooers Welcoming Redwood
The View from the Balcony
The Wine Caves (photo by Ben Brown)
Lunch at Napa's Red Hen Cantina